Re: “Maine’s population growth still stagnant, new census numbers show” (May 19):

More headlines announce shrinking populations in central and northern Maine’s cities and towns, including Bangor, Penobscot County’s largest city.

It wasn’t always this grim. In the 1970s, Maine’s rural communities experienced the fastest growth in the state (Waldo County saw growth rates around 20 percent), and Maine’s population growth exceeded national averages. Rural Maine had captured the imagination of the nation, and young idealists moved to Maine by the thousands, wanting to live a more purposeful life.

They didn’t come to Maine to change the state’s traditions – they came here to embrace them. And a generation later, there is no doubt they have made Maine better. In fact, one of those back-to-the-landers transformed my own life in Aroostook County. A homesteader named Glynn Willett co-founded The County’s first tech company, ATX Forms, and the jobs created in rural Maine changed hundreds of lives.

Today, Maine is experiencing a Great Emptying in its rural areas, and we need a new way to tell our story to once again capture the imagination of the nation. The proposed national monument in the Katahdin area could be today’s version of the popular book on homesteading, “Living the Good Life” – an intriguing new national monument that brings people to interior Maine.

Some of those people will stay, bringing their ideas, their energy and, most importantly, their dreams as they seek the good life in Maine.

Jessica Masse